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Homily for Installation
In a new well reviewed book called “Wanting” author Luke Burgis, entrepreneur in residence at Catholic University of America, presents many interesting concepts, including what he calls “disruptive empathy.” He explains that disruptive empathy, rather than sympathy, seeks to enter into a conflict, harm, or injustice in a way that changes the trajectory for the good – it positively changes the narrative, while ultimately preserving the authenticity and identity of the one who enters in. Disruptive empathy helps change the scapegoating dynamics of culture and humanity – seen for centuries in history and literature – which seeks to blame, isolate, or purge others. Disruptive empathy rejects scapegoating by naming harm and repairing relationships at their core – often through vulnerability and humility.
I thought of this persuasive concept as I was preparing for this weekend’s homily. Two of the central figures we encounter in today’s readings – Jeremiah and Jesus – employed disruptive empathy in their approach to whom they were sent. Indeed, the saints of the Catholic tradition – including many great women – also used disruptive empathy to call people from apathy to embrace the love and grace of God. These women set the world ablaze with the love of God – St. Clare, St. Catherine of Sienna, and St. Teresa of Calcutta, to name a few.
Ironically, in today’s first reading the very thing that gets the prophet Jeremiah cast into a muddy cistern is that he is seeking the well-being of those in the city, but in order to do this he must disrupt their present course – he must call them back to God and fidelity to the covenant – back to right relationship with God and neighbor. St. Paul was also relentless pursuer of disruptive empathy – going throughout the Mediterranean world preaching the Gospel of Christ and suffering all manner of harm as a result – prison, stonings, insults, shipwrecks – all for the spread of the Gospel.
As Jesus moves closer to Jerusalem his message becomes more prophetic – even anguished – as he predicts in today’s Gospel – the consequences of his own ministry and consequences for his life – he says, “ I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” Jesus has come to enter in – to take our very flesh – so that our lives and our world might be transformed. But there is a cost – an invitation to dying and rising that is consequential and cannot be experienced through tepid faith or half measure. His prophetic message today is meant to rouse his listeners from apathy and call his followers to a deep accountability that flows from faith. More than any figure in Scripture, Jesus embodies the disruptive empathy which I described at the outset. This is the essence of the incarnation with all its disruptive power and divine love as its source.
Yesterday, Archbishop Hebda installed me as the 12th pastor of the Basilica of St. Mary. It was a beautiful liturgy and it was moving to have members of the Basilica and close family and friends present for this occasion. Notwithstanding this, the installation of a pastor is not about the pastor – its about the people of God. The pastor is called to be a bridge, a servant, and a shepherd – to serve all of God’s people as Christ serves us. The role and life of a pastor must be rooted and lived in humble service and faith. Please pray for me that I would be the type of pastor that God intends for the Basilica at this present moment and into the future. I have said previously that the beating heart of the Catholic Church is the parish setting. The beating heart of the Church is here – where God walks with His people in tenderness and love.
In preparing for this weekend, I have been reading some of the history of the Basilica as a landmark and a parish. In “Voices from a Landmark” by Peg Guilfoyle, she notes: “[i]t is a tremendous act of faith to build something like the Basilica – faith and grand vision, a large measure of hard-nosed practicality, and a certain willful blindness to obstacles and hardships.” Indeed, my first intuitive response to this great Basilica – including my first days here has been to stand in awe of the faith that was the foundation for this beautiful church. What a legacy of faith we have in the Basilica of St. Mary – and “a cloud of witnesses” through the years that have marked this fine parish.
Interestingly, in his homily for the laying of the cornerstone of the Basilica of St. Mary, Archbishop John Ireland did not talk about his faith or the faith of the people, he did not talk about the magnificent church that was planned here, rather for nearly the entire homily he spoke about the drama of salvation history and the glory of God – what God has done for us – and the fact that Christ is alive – the same yesterday and today. His homily aligned with the words from Hebrews today – we are to always keep our eyes fixed on Christ. This was also Archbishop Hebda’s message at last evening’s liturgy – to keep our eyes fixed on Christ. I was struck by this and it contains an important lesson for us today – when we follow God’s lead when we humbly give God the glory and follow God in faith, great things can happen – great things at the Basilica of St. Mary.
From Marvin O’Connell’s great autobiography on John Ireland, I was struck by the intentionality of Ireland’s choice of sites for the Cathedral of St. Paul and the Basilica – they were meant to convey visibility and manifest the purposeful decision to engage the community, to announce God’s presence robustly and beautifully to the city. The choice of the location of the Basilica near the intersection of the broad avenues of Hennepin and Lyndale intertwined the growing city with the growing Catholic community, walking together through time and history. O’Connell notes that Ireland believed in the compatibility of Catholicism and the American ideal; I do too, but much work remains to be done toward humble and meaningful engagement between the civic and religious spheres. This task has not gotten easier since the time of John Ireland. One of the areas where Catholics can be a leaven and force for good in American life is to exhort other Catholics and Americans to always pair the American value of autonomy with the important value of social solidarity – autonomy without social solidarity frustrates the good and stability of our republic.
Lastly, I have also been moved by the Basilica’s use of the verse from Jeremiah as a prophetic call to serve and seek the good of the city: “[s]eek the well-being of the city to which I have sent you. Pray for it to the Lord. For in seeking its well-being you shall find your own.” Our identity as Christians is rooted in humble service – this is how we seek the well-being of those around us – this is how we seek the well-being of the Twin Cities community. This journey certainly requires of us a strengthening of our own community at the Basilica – fostering a renewed energy and purpose as we emerge from the pandemic. But seeking the well-being of the city also requires great faith and the spiritual freedom that manifests in humility and boldness, as we follow God’s lead. We are called to meet the moment – to the meet the challenges and divisions of our age with a love that listens, serves, and engages our community. Our call is similar to the act of disruptive empathy that prophetically enters into a city and country beset by injustice, polarization, and unrest. As a leaven, the Basilica community can joyfully announce that there is another way – the way of Jesus – a way of humble service, commitment to justice and care for those on the margins – a way that heals the wounded and sows seeds of a deep and lasting peace.
View Full Installation Mass
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Fr. Daniel Griffith will be installed by Archbishop Hebda as the 12th Pastor of The Basilica of Saint Mary on Saturday, August 13 at 5:00pm. The celebration Mass will include interfaith leaders from the community and honored guests.
Fr. Daniel Griffith was named pastor and rector July 1, 2022. He was ordained in 2002 and has served in a variety of assignments in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis since ordination including pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes for 10 years and as the archdiocesan delegate for safe environment in 2013 and 2014. Fr. Griffith is the founding director of the Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.
Fr. Daniel Griffith stated, “I am humbled and honored to be installed as the 12th pastor of The Basilica of Saint Mary. I have long admired The Basilica’s commitment to sacred and beautiful liturgies, outreach to the poor and marginalized, and its commitment to justice and peace within our broader community. Please join us at The Basilica on our shared journey of faith as walk together in the light of the Lord.”
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:
Saturday, August 13
Installation Mass with Archbishop Hebda at 5:00pm*
Sunday, August 14
Celebration Masses with receptions following 9:30* and 11:30am Masses
Worshippers will continue to hear from the Gospel of Luke throughout late summer and fall at Sunday Masses. In a Bible study on Luke offered earlier this year at Our Lady of Lourdes, Fr. Daniel Griffith introduces the Gospel and presents information about the author, the genre of writing, prominent themes, and other keys to understanding the great storyteller and evangelist that we know as St. Luke.
Today a guest fell ill at the 9:30 Mass. Fr. Griffith ended his homily abruptly as the guest received medical attention while an ambulance arrived. We are very happy that the man who fell ill is recovering well. Fr. Griffith offers the text of his homily for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
“Store Up Riches In What Matter To God”
Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 31, 2022
Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis, MN
Fr. Daniel Griffith, Pastor
Yesterday, I was watching a golf tournament that was being held at Brandon Dunes on the Oregon coast. The players stopped for a bit when the fog rolled in, in part, because it was wreaking havoc on their “range finders” – the devices that shoot the yardage to the green. And then, the fog was gone, in a less than a minute.
In today’s first reading, we meet Qoheleth whose name signifies a teacher or sage. When he speaks of “hebel” or vanity he speaks of something like vapor or mist – it is short lived, insubstantial, ethereal, not unlike the fog on the Oregon coast. His “vanity of vanity” phrase – employing the superlative convincingly drives the point: all things are like this – things of this world – they are passing away – they don’t last. And yet, we put so much time and energy into things of this world: possessions, wealth, and yes – power and honor.
The main theme in all three readings today is quite clear and yet we continue to struggle with a preoccupation with things of this world. In the gospel today Jesus is continuing his way to Jerusalem and his message and teaching takes on an increasingly sharp edge – the prophet has emerged as Jerusalem gets closer. In response to a request to get involved in a dispute over family inheritance, Jesus quickly turns the page – “take care to guard against all greed – one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
One of the most important Greek words in today’s gospel is pleonexia – a type of greed that manifests itself in a desire for more and more, motivated by a false security in possessions. Luke, the great storyteller, presents a figure known by scholars as the “rich fool” as an admonition of Jesus to seek that which truly lasts and to place our security in God. Interestingly, this story is only found in Luke. The key to the story is that the rich man’s quest for security – wrongly placed in possessions – evaporates like mist as his life is demanded of him, having failed to store up riches in what matters to God.
A preeminent scholar of Luke – aptly named – Luke Timothy Johnson – had this this correlative comment to offer about today’s passage; “It is out of deep fear that the acquisitive instinct grows monstrous. Life seems so frail and contingent that many possessions are required to secure it, even though the possessions are frailer still than the life.”
We know of course that wealth itself is not sinful, but attachment to wealth, greed, and the failure to place our security in God, or to simply take God out of the equation as the rich fool does, ends in destruction and emptiness.
The passage from Luke and indeed all the readings today are robustly relevant to our modern day. Many seek security and even happiness in what they have and what they achieve or accomplish – but both are fleeting and tenuous. According to St. Paul in today’s second reading, this was also a problem for the Colossians. Paul says – you have been baptized, seek what is above and put to death what is earthly – seek God’s divine life and grace. This is where true security and happiness are found, and yet we seem hard pressed to learn this valuable lesson.
The desire to amass more and more is how our wold is ordered – the market, constant production, the economy – often stealthily destructive to good ends. This feverish pursuit takes our gaze away from the divine horizon and eternity and keeps us in a trap – it keeps us wanting but not finding true fulfillment. This constant churning for more and more, while many go without, does great damage to our souls, to the poor, and to the dignity and sustainability of our created world. It’s not storage “barns” that we are building but storage “units” – they are omnipresent in our modern day – and point to the same false security in possessions.
So, what is the way out the trap? And by the way – I am not taking shots or throwing stones. I like nice things too – I drive a nice car, live in a nice home, and after Mass and fellowship today, will travel to Wisconsin to a cabin I own for rest and relaxation. These readings today are as relevant to me as anyone in this Basilica today.
The way out of this trap is the good news that was shared last week and will be shared next week too – it is the good news of a good and gracious God who desires our good and happiness and indeed eternal life for all of us. This is a God who would not hand us a snake when we ask for a fish and invites us to knock and to seek good things. This God, our God, invites us to place our trust and security in him and store up treasures in what maters to God. This is the only true path to happiness and peace for all of us.
It is also the right prescription and path for our parish at this time of transition and possibility – to place ourselves and this beautiful and historic community of faith completely into the hands of our loving Father. From this foundation of trust and security in the one who made us and desires our good and flourishing, renewal and a vibrant future await all of us. True riches in God is the only path forward for those who believe.
From the Pastor
Welcome Fr. Daniel Griffith
Fr. Daniel shares his faith and background in this column.
Known and Loved by God is a Truth of All Biographies
The story of God’s deep and abiding love is the greatest love story ever told: it encompasses the wonder of creation; the gift of Jesus Christ—his passion, death, and resurrection; the gift of the Spirit and the life of the Church; and our friends the saints, including Mary, the Mother of God, our patron saint. What wondrous love is this. As a pastor, I think getting in touch with and integrating the truth of God’s personal love for each one of us is a key to living dynamic discipleship.
Psychologists will tell you that one of the most important aspects of emotional and psychological health is to feel known and loved by others—friends, family, and certainly by one’s spouse. I would dare say that even more important for us as spiritual beings is that we have a firm conviction that we are known and loved by a good and gracious God. You will hear me preach and communicate much about God’s love during my time in service of our community because I think knowledge of God’s personal and tender love cannot be overstated in terms of its importance to our lives of faith. Whether people are aware or not of God’s divine love, it is a truth of all our biographies, because without this love, none of us would be here.
As your new pastor, I would like to share a little bit about my own story as we get to know one another on our journey of faith. I look forward to hearing your stories as well in the coming weeks and months ahead. I was born and raised in northeastern Wisconsin, the Fox River Valley—the youngest of nine children, in what could be described as a loving and raucous Irish Catholic family. My father Bill is still alive and when he was recently in the Twin Cities, he received a first class tour of The Basilica by our beloved Dr. Johan Van Parys. My mother Susan passed away ten years ago and was a wonderful mother and wife. As a woman of deep Catholic faith, mom was a light to all of her family, including me, her priest son.
I first felt a call to priesthood when I was eight years old. I told my dad that I wanted to be a priest and used to play Mass with my best friend Kevin. As the years passed, the call became more distant and less realistic—I always had a hard time believing I was holy enough to be a priest—God calls us anyway. Growing up, I played a number of sports including football, basketball, tennis, and golf. I attended the University of St. Thomas in 1989. As the youngest and because my parents were in a different financial situation, I was afforded a privilege that my other siblings had not been—to attend private college. Of course, as siblings do, they remind me of this from time to time.
At St. Thomas I majored in Political Science and minored in Theology—as much I liked Poly Sci, it was theology that began to win my heart. The call to priesthood did not go away, but I was still not ready to say yes. I attended William Mitchell School of Law in St. Paul in 1994 which provided the gift of a legal education and some wonderful friends, who remain good friends to this day. God was not done with me in terms of the call to priesthood. When I saw that there were a couple of priest-lawyers serving in the Archdiocese, I thought to myself, wow, maybe it is possible to live this life as a priest—maybe this is God’s call for my life. After a year of intensive discernment and the application process, I entered the St. Paul Seminary in 1998. While no one feels called to seminary—for those who are called to priesthood, seminary provides further opportunity for discernment and the necessary formation and education to serve God’s people in priestly service. It also provided another opportunity to establish life-long friendships.
Since my ordination in 2002, I have served in a variety of assignments, including as an associate pastor at All Saints in Lakeville, as pastor of St. Peter in North St. Paul, and most recently, as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis. In December of 2011, I was appointed to the University of St. Thomas School of Law faculty where I continue to teach in the areas of Catholic social teaching, jurisprudence, and restorative justice. My work at UST Law has been a great gift – I have enjoyed teaching, the interaction with students and colleagues, and leading our new Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing (IRJH). I am heartened that I will be able to remain at the law school in conjunction with my ministry at The Basilica and look forward to the shared values and programming opportunities, epically in the area of advocacy for justice and healing.
Perhaps some of my most challenging work as a priest was in the role of delegate for safe environment at a time when our archdiocese was in crisis— reeling from self-inflicted wounds from the failure to protect children and vulnerable adults. It was fraught time for many in our local church, but for me was also a time of growth. Our archdiocese is in a much different and healthier place than 2013-2014, as we have become a national leader both in the area of safe environment and now in restorative justice. I am heartened that the arc of my priestly ministry has moved decidedly to the area of restorative justice and healing. I hope this work in this area has helped me become a better priest and pastor—more compassionate and more attentive to the needs of those who are suffering.
The call to the serve as pastor of The Basilica is humbling. I have long admired this community in so many ways and have enjoyed getting to know staff and parish leaders over the last number of months. I have been impressed with those I have met and what I see. I thank Fr. Bauer for facilitating a very good transition and wish Fr. John well in his pastorate at Our Lady of Lourdes. My role in the coming months is to listen, learn, and meet as many people as I can so I can serve well our community going forward. I am excited for this work of walking with our community, discerning God’s call, and going out to our broader community to announce the good news of God’s love.
Finally, what do I like to do for fun?—travel, reading, cooking, walking, music, spending time with friends, spending time at a cabin in northwestern Wisconsin, and golf. And as I confessed on my first weekend at The Basilica, yes not only am I a lawyer, but I am also a Green Bay Packers fan. I know that this presents two strikes against me in some of your eyes, so hopefully I can overcome these deficiencies by being a really good pastor.
Fr. Griffith’s Installation
Saturday, August 13, 5:00pm
Join us for Fr. Griffith’s Installation Weekend.
Installation Mass with Archbishop Hebda
Reception following Mass
Sunday, August 14
Receptions following 9:30 and 11:30am Masses